Parenting

Parenting by Trial and Error?

By | September 4th, 2017|Tags: , , |

I wanted to be a parent longer than I can remember. I was the little girl that stuffed a pillow under her shirt and gave birth to her baby dolls on a daily basis. The obsession was replaced with sports for a spell, but when I went to college and started dating more seriously, I wasn’t worried when I couldn’t focus on a major. Being a wife and mother does not require a  college degree.

It took me four years to find Mr. Right. It took us another fifteen years to have our first child. It was a long road of arguments, disappointments, doctors, fertility treatments, and finally in-vitro.  Less than two years later we had babies number two and three (twins). 

I remember bringing our first baby home and learning the first lesson of being a mom. It was two of us learning from each other from the start. I read books and spoke with family and friends. It was trial and error to be sure. After three days of not sleeping I  thought how lucky I was that I loved my job! I couldn’t wait till morning when I got to start the routine all over again. What other type of job lets you say that? Even when my back went out and I was crawling on the floor like Ursula (the sea witch from the Little Mermaid) in order to get my son out of his crib, I never regretted what I had signed up for.

Then I had the twins. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said, “boy, you have your hands full!” I’m going to let you in a little secret. When you have twins, they keep each other company! They don’t require all of your attention, all of the time. When you are changing a diaper, you already have all of the stuff out, you might as well change two. When you get to the stage when they are chasing each other around in walkers, don’t forget to break out your smartphone or camera. It is hysterical. Grocery shopping is more difficult because it’s hard to find places to put your groceries, but somehow you manage.

I’m realizing as they get older how events occurred and decisions were made and how they have affected their lives. It’s terrifying. In 2011 the twins stuffed their Halloween candy in the toaster and pushed down the lever. What I’ve learned years later is that they saw the toaster burst into flames, got scared and went to bed. Sometime later the fire alarm woke me, I called 911, and my family marched out of the house. We had to stay in a hotel for thee months before we found new housing. This was my childhood home. I spent a lot of time on the phone dealing with my own trauma thinking the boys hadn’t seen anything. They overheard a lot and carried a lot of guilt before they told me the truth years later.

During this time their father and I were separated. We called it the fight that lasted a year. It was a stressful time and once again I ask myself how did this impact their lives? A separation, a fire, living in a hotel. We turned it into an adventure and the boys received enormous support from their school and family…but a mother’s worry never ends.

In 2013 it happened again. My husband and I both got phone calls at our place of work explaining that our house was on fire. This time there was not  a clear explanation as to how the fire started. When I got there the house was in flames and the ceiling had collapsed. Thank Goodness there was no loss of life. Our new kittens were safe, our old dog was still in the back yard and the kids were safely at school. Despite the rise in anxiety and a feeling of helplessness I got the message laud and clear about what was important.

It seemed so easy when they were lying under their arch of toys swatting at the little rainbow in the center. As I look back on it my biggest problem was when I gave birth to the twins and got to introduce their big brother for the first time. He took one look at them and high tailed it out of that room so fast. Not sure what his plan was, but I can tell you it didn’t include either of them!  Fortunately one of his aunts were nearby and raced down the hall to collect him. I look back at parenting then and now and realize that I’m not getting more than I can handle, and that we still learn by trial and error.

This summer my oldest son got to go on an adventure with his grandparents. I felt the most vulnerable I have ever felt in my life. I bought him a special watch so I could watch him with GPS and call him whenever I needed to. He had the time of his life. He came home with so many stories. Whats more, my parents reported that he was well behaved helpful, fun spirited, and a joy to have around the entire trip. They said I was doing a good job!

Lets let that sink in for a while…I am doing a good job. When my kids are with others, they know what to do, they do it, and it reflects back positively on our family. Now that is a good feeling.

Every morning when I take my boys to school I watch them as they run to the sidewalk that takes them to their classrooms, backpacks knocking against their butts and I think how much I love my job, how lucky I am to have them and sometimes I get a lump in my throat.

Why Does Vlinder Work? Behavior Management

By | September 2nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Good question! Something that I, as the creator, should be able to explain to you.

For those that have never read my blogs…Vlinder is a behavior management game or program that uses positive reinforcement to reward clearly set expectations. For more information visit the website.

This is not about how to play or even how it works…this is about WHY it works. The ABC’s of behavior management rests on three aspects: antecedents, behaviors and consequences. Antecedents are events that occur before behaviors present themselves. If a child doesn’t have a good meal, didn’t get enough sleep, and got news that they weren’t going to their friends house then those are the antecedents to the temper tantrum that followed. The tantrum is the behavior that you are trying to discourage. Parents generally have a built in consequence for poor behaviors which can be anything from avoidance to a time-out or even worse.

Taking this example and using Vlinder means that you set the expectations before the antecedents have a chance to impact behavior. Clearly the child is in no shape for a play date. Expectations are set for what is reasonable for them to achieve the goal either later in that day or the next day. What can they do to earn this time? Have a rest or eat more breakfast? Complete some of their morning responsibilities. Note that in this example they are not losing their playdate…they are working towards it. You have gotten the same result without a tantrum.

That is the simple explanation of why Vlinder works. We looked at the ABC’s of behavior management and we took control at “A” (antecedents).

There are times of the day that are typically more stressful than others. If you use Vlinder to structure time you will be amazed at how much smoother time will play out. Not only will you have more cooperation but you will have more time for yourself as your players know what they have to do…as their expectations have already been laid out for them.

As with any behavior management program, results will vary. I am the first to admit that the first couple of times that you try this new approach it can be confusing for your child and a tantrum may still follow. Habits are hard to break. As they come to see that you follow through with your promises they will begin to work hard. Stay positive as you see them trying. When they question just acknowledge that this is not earning their “stamps” (part of the game) to go to their play date.

For more parenting tips or information on using positive reinforcement visit my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com!

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Out With the Old

By | May 2nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

One of the great things about any good behavior modification system is that you can watch the undesirable behavior slowly correct itself. With games like Vlinder you often see change occur quickly. Please note that it takes time for it to have a lasting affect. Poor habits do not form over night, nor do the remedies. Once you choose negative behaviors that you want to focus on, it is important not to overstimulate or overburden the child. Pick one at a time that you can slowly integrate into your plan.

With Vlinder there is a list of responsibilities or expectations that your child has already set to accomplish each morning. By using the two-three extra spaces at bottom of the Task Sheet you can add your positive goals. 

As an example, if your child is hitting their siblings at home, two replacement behaviors may be, not hitting their siblings and showing acts of leadership. Generally you have one behavior that is the exact opposite and then one behavior that is doing an act to replace their time in a positive fashion.

Another example is if your child is still wetting the bed. The first replacement would be not wetting the bed and the second could be keeping their bed made.

A behavior modification system works because of the positive and negative reinforcers that are in play. A driving force in a game like Vlinder is the idea of earning stamps, thus earning the reward cards. For those who have played the game, you know that there is as much value in the stamp as there is in the reward itself. It is something that is earned. The tears never come from not earning the right reward, but they do come from not earning a stamp. Find your motivators and you have found the leverage to help you turn any negative behavior into the good behavior that you are looking for.

Breakthrough, LLC is the proud distributor of Vlinder. Please visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com for more information at behavior modification, our game Vlinder or other parenting information.

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Enough is Enough

By | April 23rd, 2017|Tags: , , , , |

How can you tell if you are overindulging your children? That is a tough question. For some, giving what you didn’t have as a child is overindulgence. It doesn’t really matter who is right. I think parents generally are pretty intelligent people and know when they are going overboard. What matters is a pattern of overindulgence can be harmful for your child. Not being able to recognize negative consequences leads to poor coping strategies.

What we do instead is offer reasonable solutions to our children when confronted with negative consequences. Allow them to learn from their mistakes and build strategies to become stronger, wiser and independent young adults. Here are some tips that parents and kids can work on together…

  1. Be grateful for what you have.
  2. Make sure to set and follow through with consequences.
  3. Share how it feels when your kindness is taken for granted.
  4. Work on communication skills between parent and child.
  5. Accept that patterns of over-indulgence can harm a child’s ability to function in life.
  6. Provide a lesson teaching the difference between needs and wants.
  7. Learn how to set boundaries and stay firm.

I believe that we all have the best interest of our children in mind. When we vowed not to make the same mistakes as our parents or that our kids would never “go without” we did not mean harm. But in some cases that is exactly what is happening and it is time to take a look at our parenting plan and rethink some strategies. Patterns that have set over a period of time can be difficult to identify and change. Using the steps above are a step in the right direction. Creating new patterns which don’t include overindulging your children is another!

I encourage conversation on my Facebook support group, Parenting With Intention…I also welcome your comments. For more parenting advice or to learn more about behavior modification visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com.

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Is Your Child Really Sick? Are They Trying to Tell You Something?

By | March 22nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Does your child fake being sick to get out of going to school? Recently I have been confronted with this challenge. I wish if they are going to get sick they would get a good old dose of the flu, it takes the decision making out of the equation. A fever means staying home quietly with a good book. It’s more concerning to me when my child delivers a performance, feigning illness to avoid the classroom. What is he really saying?

Perhaps nothing is going on. Perhaps your child is in the middle of a good book and can’t wait to finish it. But inventing stories to avoid school could also be a shout out for help. This is a good opportunity for you to ask if there is anything going on with friends or schoolmates. Perhaps he needs help with some homework. It may also be a larger problem such as bullying.

Children worry about life at home. If your child is feeling an unnecessary stressor due to events in the home they may feel like they need to stay close by.  This may be an important time for you to do an inventory on your own home life and reassure your child that they are safe.

As busy parents we often run on auto-pilot and it is good to slow down and look for the meaning behind our children’s actions. Patterns are created because the action works over time. If your child continues to create stories to get out of going to school, better to nip this in the bud early. Discover the reason and solve the problem before it turns into a behavior.

I encourage conversation on my Facebook support group, Parenting With Intention…I also welcome your comments. For more parenting advice or to learn more about behavior modification visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com.

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Finders Keepers – A Mother’s Search for Reasonable Rewards

By | March 16th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

Kids are given so many “things” nowadays. It seems as though when it comes to Birthdays and Christmas I’ve run out of gift ideas because of all the giving that I’ve already done. I know I’m not the only one. So when it came to creating my behavior modification program it was important to me to find rewards around the house that involved time spent with family, friends, and other social ingredients. Knowing how hard it was going to be to find enough rewards to make up my program I wondered if all of them would hold enough value to motivate.

It proved no easy task. I sat on my couch for hours, with eyes closed, mentally roaming my home, pretending to be my kids and thinking of things they like to do. Different times of day. Different people to associate with. Different animals to play with. I would use all of my senses to imagine what they could earn as a reward that would motivate them to want to earn it again.

The funny thing is a lot of the things I came up with, I would let them do regardless. I decided to do a test run. I was curious how they would respond to rewards like “play with a pet” compared to “30 minutes of electronics on a school night”. Would one reward hold more value and make them work harder than another?

The answer was they all worked the same. Initially I wondered if it was the newness of working with Vlinder, the name of the program. Families that were part of a pilot project reported similar findings, however. Although some rewards held, what were considered a higher pay value, they did not make the kiddos work any harder during the day then cards that had a lesser pay value. Kids reported enjoying the process. They liked understanding what was expected of them (which is part of their task sheets), they liked picking out of a bin, not knowing what reward they were going to get, even if it was a bummer card. They enjoyed carrying out the reward or having the anticipating of being able to carry out the reward. Overall it is a win-win.

Vlinder found the kids motivation to complete any tasks that were put before them on a task sheet. The added bonus is the amount of valued family time that comes with the rewards. I was pleasantly surprised that my kids often choose cuddle time as their reward. I always love it when they get to pick the meal, not only do they pick but they often help with the meal as well. Daddy loves it when they pick Daddy Day as their special Weekly reward. Again we would gladly do it without the game, but with the game we make sure to set aside the time to do it in a timely fashion. The kids have a strong feeling of accomplishment and pride.

It continues to be important for me to bring up to participants and friends that one of the largest learning experiences for me has been that no matter the pay-value of the reward, kids want the recognition. One of the things that Vlinder does an excellent job of is explains to kids what they need to do to get that same recognition. The rewards make it fun, the game pieces make it fun.

If you would like to learn more about Vlinder, Behavior Modification and other parenting advice please come and visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. You can also call us at (707) 773-7654.

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Good Bye Legos

By | March 5th, 2017|Tags: , , , |

When is it time to say good bye to legos? My sons haven’t played with them in years, they are gathering dust on their shelf and they desperately need the space…and yet I find myself asking again when do we box them up and put them away? I’ve been researching this topic for some time. Projects to do with old lego sets. Revamping old lego sets. Setting your lego set. Restoring your lego sets, donating, storing…, etc.  In all of this time I realize that I’m putting forth this effort  because I’m having a difficult time letting go of a “phase” my children went through.  Plus…it has been replaced by the video game phase…and I see no end in sight.

The lego phase was fun and creative. It was interactive and required patience and thought. At the end there was pride in a job well done. There is a large difference between that and now that they have discovered video games. Video games are isolating and often thoughtless. Progress is achieved with skill that is acquired over time. Time that is spent away from friends and family. Although I limit my children’s video time, I compare it with lego time and miss it greatly. Because video time has to be controlled it often involves arguments and tears. Lego time was endless hours on the floor putting together battleships, dragons, superhero space stations, etc.  The only tears were of frustration when tiny pieces couldn’t be found. 

This is more then saying good-bye to legos and re-structuring family life to involve some independent play time.  There have been a lot of phases that I have not given the same thought. Kids grow up so fast. I’ve heard that phrase a lot but today it holds new meaning. Although I don’t find it necessary to eliminate all electronic use in our home, I do have a call for action. I call for more time playing games on the floor, at the table, in the garage…wherever there is space!  There is no use just crying about the end of a phase if you aren’t going to do something about it!  Replace it with something equally fulfilling.  I’m missing time spent with my children.  Done!  And as far as my initial question…I guess I’m going to box them up today.

Some simple steps:

  1. Don’t forget to ask your child – Believe it or not I started the process of deciding when to store their legos months before asking them.  I finally built up the courage and was surprised when my oldest was already on board.   
  2. Have a plan in mind if your child is resistant.  For my younger two we are planning on keeping two or three of their favorites.
  3. Decide how to store and stay consistent. Keep them in their sets or color code. Either way make sure that you keep them in air tight containers. If you are going to go through the process to store them make sure they are usable after you open them again. 
  4. There are plenty of projects to do with mix-matched sets. Research books, websites, etc for ideas if you are not ready to store your legos.

Come visit me on my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com

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Are You Listening?

By | December 19th, 2016|Tags: , , , , , |

Kids constantly complain that their parents don’t listen.  How can that be true?  We navigate our children through danger and away from harm.  How can we do that without hearing their stories and demands?  Of course we listen.  We listen to the same story endlessly.  We listen at the injustice of elementary school.  We listen and listen and listen.  The fact is they are right, we are not really listening! 

What many of us consider to be the traits of a good listener, in fact, turn out not to be. How many of these listening habits do you fall under? 

  1. Trying to commiserate with similar stories of your own.  How can this be a bad thing?  All you are trying to do is share with your child that they are not alone and that you have been in the same situation.  Well, fact is that you have shifted the conversation to be about you rather then keeping focus on your child.  Better to repeat the feelings that are being shared and let your child know that they are heard.  Who knows what other details they will divulge as the conversation stays about them. 
  1. Shifting the mood of the conversation to be about happier events or times.  I know you are just trying to cheer up your child.  Parent hates to see their child in distress.  Because of your discomfort of seeing your child sad, stressed or angry you are not allowing them to fully express their emotions.  Sit with them in their sadness, stress and anger.  You will gain more insight as to what drives their emotions by practicing good active listening skills.  Repeat what you hear and allow your child to correct any misunderstandings so they feel fully heard. 
  1. Provide solutions or suggestions on how to make things better.  As parents it is part of our job description to help direct our children through life.  That includes allowing them to learn from our mistakes.  WRONG!  If we are to be good listeners then we need to put the teacher hat away and listen to what is being said.  The fact is while we are coming up with solutions we are missing a lot of important information that is being shared.  Problem solving and working together will come in later steps of the conversation, preferably when your child asks for help. 
  1. Correct misunderstandings or misinformation.  Our children have been telling incredible stories all of their lives.  That includes times of high emotion.  As they are sharing their troubles, no matter how misinformed, without allowing them their truth, their reality, you are not truly listening.  You are putting a stopper in their sharing and telling them that their feelings are not valid.  Listening without correcting is truly a gift and one that your child will benefit from in the long term.  After you finish listening to your child they will have a good example of what to do when it is your turn to share your frustrations.  It shouldn’t be about who is right it is about the gift of listening. 

If you begin to listen to your child focusing purely on their needs are as a communicator, then you will be amazed at what you learn about your child.  Good listening skills include repeating what is heard and keeping quiet you feel some of the above habits creeping in.  Sometimes the only solution to your child’s problem will be to have someone who listens to them 100%, just for them. 

For more information on parenting and behavior modification visit us at www.ourbreakthroughs.com or call at 707 773 7654.

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Positive Reinforcement and Anger Management

By | December 12th, 2016|Tags: , , , , |

Here are some signs that your child may have an anger management problem.  Continue reading for some helpful tips on how to help modify unwanted behavior. 

  1. Is your child argumentative, ready to enter a debate without thought of subject matter or consequence? 
  2. Does your child have problems with impulse control?  This can appear in different forms including verbal outbursts or even physically acting out. 
  3. Does your child threaten harm to self or others as a negotiation tactic? 
  4. Does your child have difficulty accepting responsibility? 
  5. Is your child difficult to calm down following an altercation or misunderstanding?
  6. Does your child appear pessimistic and unable to see a brighter side?
  7. Is your child uncooperative and unwilling to follow directions no matter how straight forward?
  8. Is your child easily frustrated when presented with a new task or problem?

Collectively these signs of anger management issues may indicate that it is time to see a therapist or other specialist in order to reach a proper diagnosis.  The internet is helpful in understanding underlying problems, it should in no way take the place of professionals. 

There are; however, things that you can do at home to help manage your child’s anger.  First of all, acknowledge that anger is a normal emotion.  It is the actions that result from anger that need to be addressed.

The next part is sometimes difficult for parents to grasp.  Although there needs to be consequences for negative behavior, there are times when positive behavior should receive more attention.  Instead of getting frustrated and providing attention when your child misbehaves… use that energy to praise your child when they are behaving.  Be sure you take time to explain why you are proud and happy of their positive behavior.   Be prepared to reward.  If you child is aware of your expectations and they have something to work for then your child is more likely to repeat the positive behavior.  Change takes time and is inevitable!

For more information on positive reinforcement and behavior modification techniques visit me at www.ourbreakthroughs.com.  Breakthrough provides a positive reinforcement parenting aide called Vlinder. 

$5 Coupon Code: VLINDER

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Behavior Modification Programs Forever?

By | December 7th, 2016|Tags: , , , |

What I am going to talk about today is how you can phase out a behavior modification program such as Vlinder.  Like any good tool, it is nice to know that there are times when it can be put away for safe keeping. 

Vlinder uses positive reinforcement to help modify behaviors.  Care givers are encouraged to constantly praise their child before, during and after a wanted behavior is performed.  This is in part because the praise will become the only reward needed.  In the beginning you may choose to alternate between target behaviors such as good personal hygiene and respect towards others.  As you start to see growth in your child it will be time to retire them from the list.  The nice thing about Vlinder is that you can pick up again at any time and reinitiate your structure as new trouble areas appear. 

It is important to utilize all of your positive reinforcers while implementing a program.  Positive reinforcement comes in all forms.  Some non-verbal reinforcers are smiles, nods, and affection.  Verbal reinforcers play a key role because you are able to explain what it is that has made you happy. Tangible reinforcers are important in the beginning to help build structure in your family and help your child understand your expectations. 

Using a game/program such as Vlinder gives you the ability to cycle through the behaviors that you are trying to improve in your child.  They may think that it’s a bum deal that they don’t keep getting rewards.   This program facilitates growth and your child needs to understand that they are part of a process.

To recap – When you are utilizing a behavior modification program you use all your positive reinforcers; verbal, non-verbal and tangible.  As you move forward, behaviors get recycled.  When you stop working on a specific behavior you continue to give positive reinforcement; however, stop using tangible reinforcers, such as Vlinder Reward Cards.  They are no longer needed.  The more you move through behaviors, the more second nature this will become.

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